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I'm entertaining the idea of going with a synthetic deck as I'm a bit tired of the stain/paint/rot cycle of wood. I was a bit surprised to learn that most manufacturers are recommending that you install the planks onto a traditional wooden frame. My (potentially naïve) thought was that I'm not getting away from the stain/paint/rot cycle after all. Am I wrong? Or is there a use case here that makes it worthwhile (something about recycling the planks during a frame rebuild)?

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  • Probably more of the known strength of wood. The synthetic structural members will need expensive testing to be listed as safe/strong enough with maybe limited use.
    – crip659
    Apr 28, 2023 at 22:46
  • I get that the wood frame is stronger, but why not just do wood frame/wood planks if the wood frame is just going to eventually rot anyway? Apr 28, 2023 at 22:49
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    If maintain the wood will not rot for many years. A wooden deck will probably need to be restain/repainted quite a few times in that time frame(if stain/painted). Have two small decks/steps made from PT wood built in the 90s, with no rot(no stain/paint either, but I am lazy).
    – crip659
    Apr 28, 2023 at 23:02

2 Answers 2

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The stain cycle is mostly related to appearance of the decking. Composite decking doesn't need stain.

The wood structure will still degrade but depending on your weather a pressure treated deck assembly can last a really long time with no maintenance. Wood stain never lasts a really long time, you are lucky to get more than a year out of it.

There are options that make a wood deck assembly last even longer. Minimally you can use joist tape. Other options are putting plywood down and then a torch on roofing membrane / flashing which is a membrane rated for a roof over a living area. This will certainly allow your wood structure to last 50+ years.

Holmes on Homes switched to steel deck structures - though that was during the time when the price of wood had skyrocketed to such a degree that the difference between the two wasn't that large.

If by recycle you mean re-use the composite planks that should be possible but the main advantage is you don't have to do any crazy maintenance for cosmetics and it looks great with just a sweep.

How long are you thinking a wood structure under a deck lasts? I would expect 15 years at a minimum and the stain interval is likely every 1-2 years or you accept it just looks on the terrible side and do it every 3-5?

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Bottom line is the deck frame structure does not get the rain sitting on it or the sun's radiation beating it like the deck boards do. Therefore the frame will last substantially longer than the deck boards.

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